Photography at MGA

Exhibition: LEGACY: Your collection – Our story 

This exhibition of Australian photography at the Monash Gallery of Art (South-east Melbourne) is a must see for all those interested in Australian photography.

LEGACY. Your collection – Our story  celebrates the impact benefactors have had on the development of the amazing collection of Australian photographs held by the MGA – it is one of Australia’s important photography collections.

From Gael Newton AM:

It was a birthday treat to spend several hours at Monash Gallery of Art today. This was our second visit to see this exhibition –  the Legacy exhibition –  sampling the strengths and diversity of a photo collection built over the previous thirty or so years.

I have been engaged in some fashion or looking on since MGA’s foundation as a dedicated photographic art space and collection.

This exhibition was a rare opportunity to focus on not just the legacy of the photographers in having work in public collections but the sheer achievement of the MGA’s and its decision as a museum to specialise in one medium – photography.

It was also very personal as so many of the photographers were personally well known to me either in life or from working on acquisitions shows of their work.

My viewing of the many threads and sub themes such as portraits, nudes mortality was a medley of emotions as well some quite elegiac for now deceased photographer friends whose portraits in late life – often taken by younger photographers they had mentored in some way – also looked out at me.

The anteroom has a focus on three contemporary figures showing acquisitions made over a number of years of their enigmatic highly sophisticated works variously about identity and icons a key indicator of how a collection is built and often rewarded by artist’s gifts to institutions that bought work early in their career.

As a curator too, no show is not ‘read’ in terms of what works are placed together or in eyelines with each other. Labels are consumed seeing what was acquired before that personal or trend was mainstream. Displays are momentary conjunctions that aren’t captured in any other linear publication dutifully laying out a chronological history.

Andrew Curtis’s superb mammoth black and white architectural industrial print of beams Stephenson Street 1 2001 could be seen in the same frame as Wes Stacey’s beach landscape at Cuttagee and Mark Strizic and Wolfgang Sievers classic industrial and urban architecture pictures.

One of the first images was for me was meeting a ghost – a steely portrait by Adam Knott of Max Dupain made not long before his death in July 1992. The slightly cocked head almost sceptical gaze seen in a number of portraits of Max 

Max’s own self portraits finished in his youth. I’m sure many photographers quivered trying to make a portrait under that look of ‘lets see what you can do‘ in his eyes.

Knott adored the man and got the look that matched the question Max was given to ask ‘what will it all matter in five hundred years?  ‘ What is the answer?’

Alas I and others didn’t know what for him was the question but the quest was the burning fuel of Dupain’s imagination right up to his late elegiac flower studies. These were messages in a bottle for a hoped for future wiser beings who had the answers.

The two other Dupains a surreal night view of the Mosman ferry light trail and a lone figure (like the artist) at sunset on Newport beach fitted perfectly.

It was fascinating to compare the late life portraits of his contemporaries Athol Shmith. Similarly dark in mood for a man known for his ebullient spirits. 

Such is the magic that can be woven from acquisitions made a different times and with different ends that are brought into conversation.

Some images were unknown Pam Wragg’s very cool conceptual framing of the same esplanade, Glen Sloggett’s ‘old master’ view of filing drawers became instant love affairs .

A story could be written on each image in its context in the show. It is a huge pity that all shows aren’t photographed as they were hung on the walls the experience of those conversations cant be retrieved with a checklist.

Even though I have only mentioned a few works – this MGA wonderful exhibition is contemporary photography at its best.  Go see it. 

Highly Recommended

and it closes soon – 19th September 2018

Photography is definitely alive and very well at the MGA!

The exhibition was curatored by Anouska Phizacklea.


Here’s a selection of photographs taken of the exhibition















Click here for the MGA listing of works from the exhibition.

Click here for the MGA website.

Exhibition closes  19th September 2018

and again – go see it!


and while we were visiting – Doug Spowart was installing ‘In Anna’s Garden’ celebrating World Cyanotype Day 2018.

The exhibition is in Atrium Gallery at Monash Gallery of Art.

So there’s another reason to visit – very soon.

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